Outspoken Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is facing considerable outrage after comparing the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan in a new fundraising email.
In the final days of the government shutdown, Grayson told MSNBC's Al Sharpton he believes the tea party is about as popular as the KKK. He is now circulating a fundraising email that shows a burning cross and two Klansmen in the background. The graphic uses the cross to begin spelling out "tea party," and the caption reads, "Now You Know What the 'T' Stands For."
The following is an image of the email:
"I find it absolutely appalling, not only as a black tea-party activist, but as a human being and as a former teacher, because he's totally distorting history and what the Constitution stands for," said Jennifer Burke, national outreach director for TheTeaParty.net, which is the largest grassroots tea-party group in the nation.
"He's taken the history of the Democratic Party – because they were the party of the KKK. They were the ones that were burning crosses and lynching black people and shooting them because they were the wrong color – he's applying that horrible time in our history to a group of people who simply want constitutionally limited government and who want the government to respect the freedoms that the Constitution grants us in our God-given rights," Burke told WND.
Grayson is not backing down. The man who once said the GOP health-care plan was for people to die quickly and once called an opponent a member of the Taliban, doubled down when questioned about the fundraising message.
In a response to Fox News, Grayson said tea-party activists repeatedly raise questions about President Obama's eligibility and religion.
"One could go on and on, because there is overwhelming evidence that the tea party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation. If the shoe fits, wear it," Grayson said in his statement.
But Burke said those remarks disgust her even more.
"One thing that Alan Grayson is not known for, if you ask me, is just being of sound mind," Burke said. "I've spoken at many tea-party rallies. I've interacted with tea-party people around the country. The only time I've experienced racism was in the left's response to me, calling me an Uncle Tom or an Aunt Thomasina or telling me I hate my race, what kind of a black person am I to stand with the tea party. That is the only time I've experienced an attack."
Burke said it's possible some outrageous remarks made it into the comment section on some tea-party sites or an offensive sign appeared at a rally somewhere, but she said that is not in any way indicative of the movement, and leftists know it.
"To apply that to the millions of Americans who simply want a constitutionally limited government is disgusting," she said. "I've said it before, and I will continue to say it. Hurling that racist accusation against the tea party has been an effort to shut us up.
"Historically, in the past, you shift the conversation and instead of them making their point, which is typically based on fact, which is what we on the right do, they shift and make you defend how you're not a racist. Well, it hasn't shut us up, and so you see people like Alan Grayson heightening this incendiary attack against the good men and women of the tea-party movement."
Grayson was elected to the House in 2008. His controversial rhetoric and a strong tea-party tide led to his sound defeat in 2010, but he was sent back to Congress from a more liberal district in 2012. Grayson received 63 percent of the vote last year, but Burke said Grayson's actions should disgust people on both sides of the aisle.
"People need to start seeing beyond what letter is next to a person's name and look instead to what that person stands for and what that person is saying," Burke said. "No sitting congressman should have this level of incendiary defamation against Americans who simply want a constitutionally limited government. I hope the people of Florida, instead of sitting there cheering for this kind of thing, are sitting there embarrassed and thinking, 'We've got to get this man out. He's a horrible representative for this state and this nation.'"
The tea party has been taking shots from both sides of the aisle. Both Democrats and Republicans who disagreed with the party's fiscal strategy in recent weeks point blame at the tea party. Nonetheless, Burke said the movement remains rock solid.
"I think the tea-party movement stands stronger, actually. We have a few people who have emerged in D.C. as standing on principle and standing for the Constitution, despite being fought from both sides of the aisle," said Burke, who says President Obama and Democrats accused conservatives of demanding everything they wanted before reopening the government when it was actually Obama and his allies who insisted on 100 percent of what they wanted.
"The American people are tired of this tyranny that we're seeing rising in America, and we will fight for our Constitution," she declared. "I don't care what the name-calling is."